Knights muzzle Wolf Pack 21-0
West Port’s Jylique Barnes (5) drops the ball as Vanguard defenders Elijah Hopkins (1) and Cameron Powell (23) move in to stop him during a football game at West Port High School in Ocala, Fla. on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2021.
The Vanguard Knights traveled across town to face the West Port Wolf Pack at home on Friday night and proceeded to pitch a 21-0 shutout.
Scoring on its first possession of the contest, Vanguard (2-0) would stay in complete control over the next 46 minutes defeating West Port (0-2) handily.
Despite the shutout victory, Vanguard head coach Edwin Farmer wasn’t altogether happy about how his team performed Friday night.
“We didn’t play our best game tonight,” Farmer said. “No doubt at all. We’re a much better football team than that. We’re about making big plays, and we didn’t make them tonight. We’re definitely going back to the drawing board.”
Vanguard quarterback Fred Gaskin (2-for-8 in the first half with one touchdown and one interception) aired the ball out to wide receiver Tyrell Randall for the 31-yard touchdown pass, giving the Knights the early 7-0 lead at 9:55 in the first quarter.
For the next 22 minutes, Farmer believes his team just stopped playing.
“It’s like we scored that first touchdown and we just quit,” Farmer said. “Like we did our thing and we’re done. And we needed to just keep playing. That’s a great football team over there. We need to play up to our expectations or [the other team] will make it a much closer game.”The Wolf Pack showed some fight in the first half. They tried to take advantage of a seemingly lethargic Knights’ team.
On a Wolf Pack possession late in the first, West Port quarterback Gavin Savino would connect with Jylique Barnes for a 49-yard reception, giving the home crowd something to shout about.
But despite big gains from time to time in the game, the Wolf Pack couldn’t find the end zone.
Vanguard carried a 7-0 lead into halftime.
Right from second half whistle, senior Elijah Hopkins would find the end zone again for the Knights, scoring on a 70-yard kickoff return, padding the Knights’ lead at 14-0 with 11:47 still left in the third quarter.
Vanguard’s Dewhitt Betterson Jr. (49 total-yards-rushing) would score on the Knights’ next possession, pounding the ball in on first-and-goal at 6:27 of the third quarter—giving the scoreboard its final tally of 21-0 after senior Grandin Wilcox added the point after touchdown.
The fourth quarter had its moments—including a 50-yard run by Betterson Jr. that almost went to the house—but the clock wound down on the game and Vanguard’s efforts to add to its already significant lead.West Port head coach Steve Rhem also knows that his team can play better.
“We just got to pay better attention to details,” said Rhem. “When you’re going up against a state-ranked team [like Vanguard], you’re going to be challenged.”
Rhem recognizes that his senior quarterback had some trouble finding his receivers on Friday, but as a senior and leader on the Wolf Pack team, he trusts him wholeheartedly.
“You’re talking about a three-year senior,” Rhem said. “He’s been here. He’s been down and he’s been up. You’re talking about one of the smartest kids on the field. I never have to worry with Gavin.”
Savino went 3-for-29 passing with a total of 112 yards in the air. He also threw a total of four interceptions—two in the first half and two in the second.
The senior quarterback may have struggled to find his receivers, but when he did connect, it was for huge gains that gave the Wolf Pack some much-needed momentum—and the crowd a reason to cheer.
“We almost gelled on some plays,” said Rhem.
Vanguard faces the Dunnellon Tigers at home at Booster Stadium starting at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 10.
“It’s at home,” said Farmer, “and that’s a good thing. We play better at home. We’re a lot more focused at home. Dunnellon’s a team that’s given us some trouble. So, we got to come out prepared.”
West Port hosts the North Marion Colts on Sept. 10. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.